Tested: 2020 Tesla Model Y Long Range Crosses Over Into the Mainstream
The 2020 Model Y is the first Tesla that doesn't purport to do things in a bold and radically new way. Rather, it's a crossover version of the Model 3 sedan aimed squarely at the mainstream buyer.We like the Model 3, so a car that's just like it but has a roomier back seat—with nearly two more inches of headroom—and a bigger cargo hold—fitting seven carry-on bags behind the seats to the 3's four—sounds great, right? In reality, the Y's dimensions work against it. Even though the Y and 3 share powertrains and batteries, the less refined driving character of the former is instantly discernible by anyone who has driven the latter. There is more body roll, and a keen tush detects a bit of flex in the unibody when the chassis is stressed in corners or by pockmarked roads. The quick steering makes the 350-pound-heavier Model Y feel twitchy in comparison with the 3, and our test car's optional 20-inch wheels contribute, no doubt, to suspension crash over expressway expansion joints.
This Model Y came with the one feature we've come to expect in all Teslas: shoddy fit and finish. We noted inconsistent gaps between the body panels—not all of which sit flush, by the way. There's a definite orange-peel effect to the paint, which also had some chips fresh from the factory, according to the owner. A few wires hang in the open from the dashboard into the passenger's footwell. Tesla placed the tire-pressure sticker on the door jamb in such a way that the white label peeks through the gap between the front fender and the door panel. And a series of persistent creaks and rattles from the back seat and cargo area made the owner send this car back to Tesla for a fix. The company says the rattle is a known problem without a solution, so the owner found a workaround. He slightly reclines part of the rear bench to stop the seatbacks from rubbing against one another.
Tesla has built its business by selling desirable EVs at luxury prices. But the Model Y, which lacks a lot of amenities for its price, makes clear that Tesla wasn't looking to innovate here. The company took one of its established vehicles—the cheapest one, at that—and made an appliance of it, just like so many other automakers have done with their EVs.
And yet, Tesla loyalty runs so deep, this electric crossover will surely sell like gangbusters. And that's fine. There's nothing dreadfully wrong with the Model Y. But we can't help but feel that Tesla punted on this one. The company known for daring played it safe, and the result doesn't score big with us.